Wine Wednesday: Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Châteauneuf-du-Pape, often noted as the largest and most important wine appellation in the southern Rhône. With so much history and so many great wines coming from the area, it is easy to see why Châteauneuf-du-Pape is so talked about. Read on for our next Rhône 101 lesson, to learn more about this Holy Grail of red wine regions.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape has a rich history, that is centered around, as its name indicates, the papacy. In 1308, Pope Clement V relocated the papacy from Rome to the town of Avignon, which is about 19 kilometers south of what is now known as the village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Clement V and the following “Avignon Popes” were lovers of French wines, especially wines coming from the few kilometers north of them, on the banks of the Rhône. Under Pope John XXII, who succeeded Clement V, the wines of that area become known as “Vin du Pape” or, “Wine of the Pope,” later evolving into the term Châteauneuf-du-Pape. John XXII was the one to erect the famous castle, the literal Châteauneuf du Pape ("new castle of the Pope"), which is a symbol for the appellation.

Established in 1936, Châteauneuf-du-Pape is known as one of the first AOCs (appellation d’origine controlée) in France, and with that came strict standards that are still adhered to today. Thirteen grape varieties are permitted to be produced in the region, with Grenache Noir being the most dominant.

Fun fact: For the last 63 years, there has been a law in Châteauneuf-du-Pape prohibiting the “flying over, landing, or taking off of flying saucers” in the area. Extraterrestrials, beware!

The region of Châteauneuf-du-Pape ranges from the eastern bank of the Rhône near Orange, to to Sorgues (near Avignon) in the south east, covering 3200 hectares of land. Châteauneuf-du-Pape is famous for the galets roulés, which are round rocks or pebbles that cover the clay soil, good for retaining and releasing heat, and appropriately retaining and draining moisture.